(Following article is in response to “A Failed Peace Process” by Mortimer Zuckerman published in The US News and World Report on January 29, 2001)
Mortimer Zuckerman in his USA Today editorial 0f 1/29/01, “A failed peace process”, 1/29/01, flogs familiar odious notions on the so-called “peace process”. (1) “Arafat has misled and incited the mass of Palestinian people”. (2) “The Barak offer was breathtaking”. (3) “Most horrible is the Palestinian Practice of exploiting children as human shields”. (4) Golda Mier: “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” (5) What other country with such overwhelming might would restrain itself to degree Israel has?” (6) “Israel has been pressured [by US] to give more land in exchange for failed Palestinian promises.” (7) and more.
His diatribe fails on all counts. He castigates President Arafat for inciting the second Intifada. His aim is wide of its mark; the target should be the succession of Israeli governments that repaid Arafat’s conciliatory offers with aggression. Observers both in Israel and Palestine agree that, since Olso, Arafat has been signing peace agreements with Israel which gave away hope for a viable statehood. The Palestinians did and continue to offer a generous compromise peace plan that includes recognition of Israel on 78% of Palestinian land (Israel within the Green Line) and implementation of United Nations resolutions 194, 242, and 338. So much for “generous offers” from Tel Aviv.
Camp David was meant to be the final surrender but Arafat seems, at last, to have woken up to what he has signed away. Now the hope of refugees has been put on the table. It appears that Arafat is more interested in being ruler of a Palestinian State, whatever its condition, than in continuing to seek a just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Young Palestinians have had enough, and despite Arafat’s feeble efforts to control them, have taken to the streets to throw stones and fire slingshots at Israeli Merkavas and Cobras.
Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law, Illinois State University. was Legal Advisor to the Palestinian delegation during the 1991-1993 peace negotiations. He was asked by the Palestinian Peace Team what was the closest historical analogue to the Israeli peace offer. He reported: “A bantustan, they are offering you a bantustan, akin to those forced by the apartheid Afrikaaner regime on its black people”. The Palestinian delegation rejected this proposal. But the Israeli government took this proposal and opened up a secret (to almost all the leadership of the Palestinian people let alone the people themselves) channel of negotiations. This Bantustan proposal became the Oslo Agreement.
It is utterly offensive for Zuckerman to suggest (with reference to the malignant Golda Mier of “There are no Palestinians”) that Palestinian children are purposely being used as sacrifices. The Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem found that from January 1988 to end of November 1998, at least 28 children under 17 years-of-age, of whom 13 were under the age of 13 were killed by rubber-coated steel bullets. According to a London Times report of 17 October 2000, stone throwing youths in Ramallah watched, stunned, as men and boys at the barricades collapsed with small bullet holes in their chests, testicles, arms and hips. These wounds were inflicted by holIow-nosed “Dum-dum” bullets, first manufactured the late 19th century and outlawed by the 1899 Hague Convention.
United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson visited Israel/Palestine during the Fall of 2000 and reported that Israel is guilty of “excessive use of force” against the Palestinians and called for a halt to the construction of Jewish colonies in the Occupied Territories. A third of the 2000 Palestinians killed have been children (1995 UNICEF report). Since September 2000, over 100 Palestinian children have been killed with special aiming at the head (Jordan Times, 14 December).
Mr. Zuckerman should instead pity the children of Israeli colonists in the West Bank and Gaza who are regularly driven, under military escort, from home to school; the homes and schools and connecting roads are all placed on land confiscated by destroying Palestinian orchards, homes, and farms. These children are endangered by the lawful right of occupied indigenous peoples to oppose their subjugation.
It is also utterly offensive for Mr. Zuckerman to posit that Israel as been restraining itself. When Ariel Sharon guarded by about 1000 Israeli police strode into Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif (the “Noble Sanctuary”) on September 28, 2000, the area had been sealed off before, during and after his visit, scarcely ensuring freedom of access. The next day the Israeli army shot eight Palestinians dead some of whom had been hurling stones at police. The world news media ignored that international law entitles the natives of a place under military occupation-which East Jerusalem has been since 1967-to resist by any means possible. All European countries had their resistance fighters during WWII who are lauded as heroes not as terrorists. The Israeli human rights organization B’tselem confirmed eye-witness reports that stones were aimed at the armada of Israeli police whose presence on the Aqso precinct was a provocation. The police did not use tear gas to stop the stone throwing but immediately opened fire with rubber-covered bullets which kill at close range. (Amira Hass, correspondent for Haaretrz (Tel Aviv) in the Palestinian Territories as reprinted in Le Monde Diplomatique, November 2000). Thus, Intifada II began.
Palestinians are guaranteed their right to return by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention of 1949 (signed by Israel), and UN General Assembly resolution 194 made December 11,1948 and reaffirmed 28 times. Any abrogation of these guarantees would set a disastrous precedent for international human rights law. It would provide a clear signal that ethnic cleansers who expel civilians from their homes, steal their property, and prevent refugees returning for long enough can expect to have their illegal territorial conquests blessed with international legitimacy. In the event, the civilized world will find that price for peace too costly.
Mr. Zuckerman should reflect on the article in the NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS of February 8, 2001 by Henry Siegman, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and formerly Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress. Mr. Siegman writes about the recent statement by Israel’s Acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami which is: ” the most honest and important insight into the fifty-year-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians ever expressed by any Jewish leader”.
As reported by Akiva Eldar in Ha’aretz on November 28, 2000, the statement was made by Ben-Ami in the course of a Cabinet debate over a document prepared by the prime minister’s office which purported to catalog a long
list of Palestinian transgressions. Ben-Ami opposed the distribution of the document on the ground that no one in the West would be surprised that a people under occupation fails to honor agreements with its occupier:
“Accusations made by a well-established society about how a people it is oppressing is breaking rules to attain its rights do not have much credence.” This is the first acknowledgment by an Israeli leader that Palestinians are a people under occupation who are struggling for their legitimate rights.
Mr. Siegman emphasizes: “the simple truth that this state [Israel] came at a terrible cost to the Palestinian people…. that [Israeli] occupiers have no political or moral right to set the ground rules for a people that is struggling to get out from under an occupation.”
Avi Shlaim declares in the London Review of Books. 25 January 2001, that “it was Ehud barak, following in his predecessors footsteps, who undermined them [the Olso Accords].What is at stake in this conflict is not Israels security, let alone its existence, but its 1967 colonial conquests. Under General Baraks leadership the Israeli Army is waging a colonial warit is savage, senseless and directed in the main against the long-suffering civilian population.Arafat has been calling for the peace of the brave ever since the first Oslo Accord was signed. Seven years on he is confronted by an opponentdetermined to impose the peace of the bully.”
My own conclusion, after long months of reading about the history of the Palestine/Israel conflict, are essentially the same as those presented by an editorial in the January/February 2001 issue of TIKKUN, the Jewish Journal of Critique of Politics, Culture & Society:
US policy should rein in Israel and impose a settlement based on:
removing Israeli colonies from the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza;
releasing West Bank water to the Palestinian inhabitants;
inviting refugees to return to their stolen property or to have reasonable compensation;
dividing sovereignty in Jerusalem.
Finally, I have asked Mr. Zuckerman to banish the poisonous thoughts that impelled him to write such a malignantly inaccurate editorial.